American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Himalaya, Nanga Parbat Range, Nanga Parbat, Southeast (Rupal) Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Nanga Parbat, southeast (Rupal) face. From September 1 to 6 Vince Anderson and Steve House made an alpine-style ascent of Nanga Parbat's Rupal Face, via a new line up the central pillar between the south-southeast spur (a.k.a. Messner Route, 1970) and the southeast pillar (climbed to the top of the face and foresummit in 1982 by Ueli Buhler, completed to the main summit by the 1985 Polish expedition). Over 4,000m high, this face is often described as the biggest wall in the world.

Following the line of House’s 2004 attempt, the pair moved steadily up the lower section, passing the route’s crux, a pitch of poorly protected dry-tooling up loose 5.9 granite. On the third day they moved right from known ground and climbed the more elegant central pillar to the huge hanging glacier in the middle of the face. An icy ramp through the lower headwall led up left to their final bivouac at 7,400m, near the 2004 high point and directly above the Merkl Icefield. They joined the Messner Route at 7,900m and continued to the 8,125m summit. They rated the difficulty VII 5.9 M5 WI4. The pair used the Messner Route for their descent. Anderson’s account of the climb, which was awarded this year’s Piolet d’Or, appears earlier in this Journal.

Nanga Parbat, Rupal Face, second ascent of Messner Route and traverse of mountain. The Korean Nanga Parbat Rupal Expedition arrived in base camp on April 20, shortly after a storm had deposited a meter of snow, making access difficult. In the next 12 days members established Camp 1 at 5,280m and Camp 2 at 6,090m, on a line close to the 1970 Messner Route.

However, at the start of May the weather began to deteriorate, with snow every day. On June 14, 43 days after the team began climbing, they sited Camp 3 at 6,850m. By this time seven tents had been destroyed, no more than three were left at Camp 1, and all at Camp 2 had disappeared under fresh snow

Toward the end of the month the team was set for a summit bid. Four members started their attempt on the 26th, but at 7,550m, while climbing the Merkl Icefield, Kim Mi-gon was hit on the leg by a rock. The injury was bad enough to prevent further climbing, and the next four days were spent evacuating the casualty to base camp. From there Kim was able to ride out on a horse to the nearest hospital.

Kim Chang-ho and Lee Hyun-jo made a second summit bid on July 13. They left Camp 4 (7,125m) at 10:30 p.m. and climbed to the base of an objectively hazardous ice gully in the Merkl Icefield, using ropes previously fixed to 7,550m. They continued with a single 6mm rope, 50m long. At 9:00 a.m. on the 14th they narrowly missed being hit by a big fall of rock and ice but by 5:00 p.m. reached the summit snowfield at 7,850m. They had originally planned to bivouac but, as night approached, discussed their options and decided to continue.

At 9:00 p.m. they reached the ridge connecting the south and central peaks, and at 10:41 p.m. the first of the two reached the summit. They had been climbing for 24 hours.

Because it was dark the two were unable to take any convincing summit photographs and were a little concerned that their success might subsequently be doubted. They left their rope and sponsor’s flag but also discovered a small container holding a note left by Reinhold Messner after his successful ascent (it is not completely clear whether this is from his 1970 Rupal ascent or the 1978 solo of the Diamir face). They decided to take this container as proof of their climb.

At 11:10 p.m. Kim Chang-ho and Lee Hyun-jo began descending the Diamir Face unroped, following the standard Kinshofer Route. Somewhere in the middle section of the face they set off a windslab avalanche. Lee was buried and Kim, who was on a boulder, was swept 50m downhill, scratching his face and losing his head torch. Extracting themselves, the two continued down, reaching the tents of another expedition at 7,100m. However, tempting though it was to stop, they believed that if they went to sleep, they might never get up, so decided to continue the descent. Both were hallucinating that another climber was ahead of them.

Eventually, 68 hours after starting out from Camp IV on the Rupal Face, they walked into the Diamir base camp [climbers in the Diamir base camp at the time report that they were impressed by the Korean's speed of descent and that Lee Hyun-jo, who arrived first, looked remarkably fresh after his ordeal—Ed.]. They radioed their fellow team members on the other side of the mountain and eventually met up with them nine days later. All together, the expedition lasted 109 days.

Messner was able to confirm that the container was his and was later invited to Korea to have it formally returned to him. It is now safely housed in his alpine museum in the Tyrol.

Lee Young-jun, Korea (translated by Peter Jensen-Choi)

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